The way Eileen Hampshire sees it, downtown Sarasota needs to become a more unified downtown, with merchants working together to bring more people to the city’s core.
“We are a flourishing downtown that’s too small to be so fractured,” says Hampshire, chairwoman of the Downtown Sarasota Alliance (DSA) and president of the Palm Avenue Merchants Association.
To unite downtown and its various districts, Hampshire and the DSA have begun an aggressive marketing push that she thinks will unite the merchants and draw more people downtown.
For starters, the DSA spent $5,000 to revamp its website, www.dsasarasota.com, and Hampshire has put Art to Walk On employee Tiffany Gosselin in charge of updating the website’s calendar with downtown events and meetings.
What makes the DSA’s new website different from other Sarasota organizations, Hampshire said, is its list of all downtown businesses and merchants — not just DSA members.
“The idea is to market all of downtown,” Hampshire said.
Members of the DSA, however, are able to add events to the website’s calendar and are being taught how to use the alliance’s website.
The DSA has also spent $4,000 for television commercials that will begin airing twice a month this fall to promote downtown First Friday events. And $1,500 has been earmarked for print advertising.
“Everything we are doing is an attempt to drive people to our website and drive people downtown to see everything we have to offer,” Hampshire said.
To further bolster its marketing reach, the DSA has asked the city’s Downtown Improvement District (DID) for $70,000 to increase the alliance’s advertising and entertainment budget for First Friday events.
The DID will discuss marketing dollar distributions and the DSA’s request at its Aug. 9 meeting at City Hall.
Hampshire said the DSA is also forming alliances with other downtown organizations, such as the Sarasota Farmers Market, in an attempt to further its marketing reach with others.
“We are making great strides in an attempt to unite downtown and its merchants,” Hampshire said. “At the same time, we think we can bring more people downtown and open their eyes to all that we have to offer.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].
The Downtown Sarasota Alliance has spent the following to market downtown Sarasota in recent months:
• $5,000 to update its website, www.dsasarasota.com
• $4,000 on television advertising
• $1,500 on print advertising